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Translucency: Three Katazome Dyed Hemp Panels

September 17, 2012

I love showing patched hemp textiles against the light, and if you follow this blog, you’ve seen this set-up before.  Today I’m showing three patched fragments from summer futon covers, each hemp, each katazome or  stencil resist dyed.The two panels shown above are large-scale repeats from the 1920s or so.

The fragment shown above is a wonderful piece of old Omi jofu, or silk-like hemp or ramie weaving from present-day Shiga PrefectureHave a closer look at a similar piece here.

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A Magnificently Beautiful 18th Century Ramie Boro: Formal Kimono

May 1, 2012

This fragile, delicate and beautiful boro cloth is hand stitched from elegant, hand decorated 18th century kimono pieces.  The kimono, which once belonged to a woman of means, is made from indigo dyed, hand-plied ramie cloth.The ramie is extremely finely woven from hair-thin yarns.  It is almost silky in the hand.  As a kimono it was probably unlined.The decorations are resisted; the hand applied color which would have been very clear when first made is now faded away, leaving barely a trace.The cloth is soft and delicate–it flutters even in the most subtle breeze.

And on these photos you can see that the cloth is translucent.Most likely this cloth was fashioned as a futon cover; its small size suggests it was made for a child, but this would have been a pampered child who would have needed very good manners.

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Three Shinafu or Linden Bark Cloth Panels

March 2, 2012

I love shinafu which is cloth woven from fibers gleaned from the inner bark of the linden tree.  And I recognize how precious it is–of the bast fibers woven in Japan, shina was less produced than hemp or ramie, and carries with it a feeling of rural life.In Japan it is also recognized as being valuable and shinafu is always pricier than hemp or ramie cloth.Shinafu has a distinctive copper colored cast and a very wiry fiber: rarely was it used for clothing.  It’s just too scratchy.  But because the fibers are tough, it made excellent work items.A colleague in Japan offered me these panels which I bought: I was really happy to have them.  When I received them and had a look, it was clear to me that these are undone tsunobukuro, or horn bags.  Horn bags are so called because they are fashioned in such a way that they appear to have two “horns” at the top of the bag.And you can tell that these panels were made in the twentieth century.  Look below and you can see the script in romaji or Western writing, “No. something-or-other.”I suppose whomever brought these pieces to market thought they’d be more interesting as panels than as  horn bags.  I kind of wish they were left as horn bags, but I’m really glad to have them.  I’m always on the look out for shinafu.Nice, huh?

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A Beautiful and Unusual Kogin Kimono: Sashiko Stitching from Aomori

January 16, 2012

This katazome dyed hemp kimono with a heavily sashiko stitched bodice is a variant on the traditional kogin kimono, kogin being a kind of sashiko stitching from the Tsugaru district in Aomori prefecture in Japan’s Tohoku region.Kogin stitching is emblematic of this very rural part of Japan, Honshu island’s northern or easternmost point.  From Kogin and Sashiko Stitch from the Kyoto Shoin’s Art Library of Japanese Textiles, Vol. 13:

The Tsugaru district in the western part of Aomori prefecture is famous for deep snow.  Due to the extreme cold, cotton is hard to grow; and, as cotton that was grown and brought in from the western part of Japan was too expensive, people living in the district were compelled to wear hemp clothes.  The kogin stitch was produced under these conditions.  The white stitches, sewn with valuable cotton thread, are reminiscent of the deep snow of Tsugaru.In referencing the above captioned book to understand this example better, it seems that this kogin is called higashi-kogin, as the design and stitching style comes from areas east of Mt. Iwaki.Generally we see kogin kimono which are constructed from a deep blue indigo dyed hemp and a sashiko stitched bodice, the cotton stitching worked on a hemp base.  This stitched bodice is a separate piece and sleeves, a skirt and collar area are all stitched to this kogin stitched bodice, the sides of which are closed and form the side seams of the garment.In this case, things are not as just described.  A rustic, stencil resist dyed hemp cloth kimono–in this case the hemp cloth is called Nambu katazome–is used for a base, and a kogin bodice is overlayed onto the existing garment and is firmly stitched to the base.  Kogin, as you can imagine, is extremely valuable, so it will be used and reused over time.  Examples showing this kind of re-use and this kind of katazome kimono base are fairly rare.The stitching is done with fairly thick cotton threads and is extremely dense.The kogin stitching dates to the late nineteenth century, the Nambu katazome kimono could be later, and it probably is.  The garment measures 45 1/2″ x 44″ or 115.5 cm x 112 cm.

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Mottainai The Fabric of Life: Lessons in Frugality from Traditional Japan

November 6, 2011

The exhibition at the Portland Japanese Garden, Mottainai, The Fabric of Life: Lessons in Frugality from Traditional Japan opened on 4 November.  Here are some installation shots.
I’m exhibiting with my friend, Kei Kawasaki of Gallery Kei in Kyoto.   Kei and I decided that I would show indigo dyed cotton boro pieces and she would show bast fiber and paper pieces.  The items I have contributed to the show can be seen below.Above and below is a large, woven cotton boro mosquito netting or kaya.

Above and below are sashiko stitched pieces.  Centrally place above is a large, sashiko stitched kotatugake.  To the left and right are garments from Yamagata prefecture.Stitched aprons and zokin can be seen above.

Above and below are sakiori garments.

Above is pictured a boro yogi or sleeping kimono, while below you can see noragi or work coats.Below is a fantastic boro futonji or futon cover.This piece, below, a shinafu or linden fiber tsunobukuro or horn bag is filled with balls of shredded indigo dyed cotton yarn and twisted paper yarn.   Kei brought this to the show to act as a transition between her bast fiber textiles and my indigo dyed cotton ones.  It’s an amazing object.  Kei’s other textiles can be seen in the images below.

Above and below are some woven paper garments.  On the photo, above, situated on the right is an okuso zakkuri or a coat made of woven hemp waste.  Below, seen in the middle, is a fujifu or woven wisteria garment and a shinafu or linden fiber garment to its left.

Below are two elm fiber garments: to the right is a traditional Ainu attush, to the left is an unusual dochugi or traveling coat, made from ohyo or elm fiber.  Since this dochugi is made from traditional Ainu cloth, we can assume that the cloth was traded with the Ainu by a merchant from Honsu island.

A marvelous, resist dyed ramie kazuki from Yamagata prefecture can be seen above and below.  A kazuki is a kimono-shaped veil which was worn on the head by upper class women.Below are repurposed paper items. A splendid bashofu or banana fiber kimono from Okinawa can be seen below.All of the pieces are for sale through the Portland Japanese Garden.  If any are interesting to you, please let me know and I will put you in touch with the Garden.

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A Very Large Hemp Bag from the Meiji Era

September 20, 2011

For some time I’ve been wanting to offer this large, hemp bag on the webshop but I knew that its giant size wouldn’t read properly without a reference to scale.  So I am showing it here.
The bag measures 58″ x 31″ or 147.5 cm x 79 cm as shown.  It shows vertical rows of hand drawn kanji, and it is made from wonderfully rustic, hand plied, hand woven hemp fabric.There are some holes, some repairs and some overall wear.  I’m not sure what the original purpose of the bag was.  It dates from the Meiji era (1868-1912).The bag is heavy from the sheer quantity of hand plied hemp yarn used to weave the cloth that was used to create this bag.  Of course the bag is hand stitched.The top of the bag is finished, but there was no drawstring to pull it closed.

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A Stack of Kaya: Indigo Dyed Hemp Mosquito Netting

August 29, 2011

As we’re in late summer, I thought I’d show a luscious stack of indigo dyed hemp kaya, or traditional Japanese mosquito netting.

I won’t say much about it today; I think the photos and the hyperlinks say it all.Stay cool!

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An Absolutely Gorgeous Hemp Komebukuro: Benibana Dyed Details

July 6, 2011

Komebukuro–or so-called “rice bags”–which are usually made from scraps of leftover cloth and configured to convey a festive air, are hardly ever more lovely than this one, which is hand stitched from hemp cloth.This one is in pristine condition and is sewn from about 18 separate pieces of hemp cloth–and the great joy of this bag is its ultra-pale pink-colored panels, the result of benibana or safflower dyeing.The pale pink against the indigo dyed kasuri cloth needs no explanation as to why it’s so lovely.  It just is.  And note the bag’s original drawstring which is hand braided from pale blue cotton yarns.And the bottom: just lovely.  Komebukuro were used to offer dry rice or beans to temples and shrines, mainly during festival times.  The pieced effect of the bags was to convey a joyous mood.  In truth, I’ve just acquired a group of old, cotton komebukuro that, when I’ve been sorting through them, have dropped a considerable amount of old, single grains of rice.  Clearly those komebukuro had been used.This drawstring bag seems not to have been used, it measures 8″ x 7″ x7″ or 20 cm x 17.5 cm x 17.5 cm and it most certainly dates to the 19th century.

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A Nest of Hand Plied Hemp Yarn

June 27, 2011

Today I”m showing a recent acquisition from my recent trip to Japan: a basket full of hand plied hemp yarn.  I love it.
I’m not sure where in Japan the hemp fiber was grown and plied.  Hemp was grown throughout Japan, so this collection could hail from almost anywhere.Just wonderful–and a real reminder of everyday life in old Japan.

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Gorgeous Cloth from Tsushima

May 19, 2011

Tsushima is a remote island group located off the coast of Kyushu–a mere 50 km from Busan, South Korea.  The rural life in this far-flung area of Japan is discussed in detail in the book The Forgotten Japanese: Encounters with Rural Life and Folklore.The classic garment of Tsushima is the marvelously understated, unlined kimono of the type shown here: it is a hemp/cotton combination.  Above you can see the warp yarns are indigo dyed cotton as well as hemp.I love this cloth.  The hand is heavy, the texture is rough but the surface is beautifully supple.And the color is just beautifully earthy, rich and slightly variegated.

From a distance the color of this cloth has a muddy grey or drab appearance.  As you approach the surface of the kimono, the subtle colors and stripes of the cloth start revealing themselves.This garment probably dates to the late nineteenth, early twentieth century.

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